Study: Suicide risk in elderly is associated with common illnesses

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Higher risk of suicide among elderly people is associated with common illnesses, reports a Canadian study in the June issue of the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.

Researchers studied prescription records for 1,329 people 66 years and older who committed suicide in Ontario between Jan. 1, 1992 and Dec. 31, 2000. Of those records, 1,012 were men, 317 were women.

The illnesses associated with the largest increases in suicide risk among these elderly people were depression, bipolar disorder and severe pain.

Other chronic illnesses also associated with increased suicide risk were seizure disorder, congestive heart failure, and chronic lung disease. Treatment for multiple illnesses was strongly associated with increased suicide risk.

Most of the people who committed suicide saw a doctor in the month before they died – and half of them did so in the preceding week.

The most common forms of suicide were firearms (28%); hanging (24%), and self poisoning (21%).